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Homelessness - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:53 am on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 11:53 am, 20th December 2018

I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Indeed, two days ago the second man this year died on our parliamentary doorstep. This man has a name: Gyula Remes, a 43 year-old Hungarian who will undoubtedly have a family somewhere in Hungary. Like me, many of your Lordships daily walk past the four or five men and women who have made Parliament’s doorstep their home. It is going to be their home for Christmas, they told me this morning. One of them is an ex-serviceman. Noble Lords who drive into Parliament must have noticed the increase in the number of people sleeping on the doorsteps in Westminster and witnessed the shame that this brings to us all. I suggest that noble Lords who do drive into Parliament might go outside and have a look at the tributes to Gyula.

Does the Minister know these fellow citizens on our doorstep? Has he spoken to them? I hope that when the Minister answers he will address the point that while the Government may have their rough sleepers plan, it is not working. What are this Government going to do about the fact that rough sleeping has doubled on their watch? That is from the Government’s figures, but Crisis says that they are a fivefold underestimate.

Does the Minister agree with his colleague Mr Brokenshire, who says in the newspapers that this explosion in rough sleeping is nothing to do with this Government’s policy, or will he acknowledge that this Government’s policies and priorities will have to change to deal with the shame that this homelessness brings to our rich nation? So many of our fellow citizens have no home and are exposed to danger: 600 deaths this year show a 24% increase in the number of deaths on our streets in the last five years. There is also the awfulness of sleeping in doorways at the entrance to our Parliament. How many more deaths will it take before the Government resolve this problem?